Finding Your Time

Writing Blocks

This morning I am trying to knock a post out quickly before “Rainmageddon” gets here.  While I don’t really believe it  the neighbor across the street said we are likely to get “ten inches” of rain during the course of the day.  That would be absolutely insane.  My wife’s theory however is that she just misheard and the news actually said “two inches”.  In any case starting at noon today we are likely not going to want to be out in the world.  This is awesome because it means I can binge on video games.  What is not so awesome is the fact that I need to get a post out quickly rather than my normal lazy Saturday and Sunday posting schedule.  So I have a video game soundtrack on to block out the world, and am in beast mode!  Sadly my beast mode is more like a sleepy kitten, but in any case…  I am making things happen!  For those curious I am listening to the State of Decay soundtrack that is available on Google Play.

Normally Storytime Saturday is the day when I tell you some tale about myself, and I try really hard to make it one I have not already told.  The problem there is that I have shared so many intimate details of my life with you all, and that I have zero recollection of what I say on any given day.  Hell there are days I get to work and I will see entire sections of a post that I don’t remember writing.  In the spirit of the Newbie Blogger Initiative this mornings “Storytime” is more than likely going to be a free form rambling mess as I share indiscriminant tips and tricks I have learned over the years.  The key to thriving as a blog is to be predictable in your posting schedule, and in order to make this happen it means you need to set aside specific blocks of time to write.  How big of a block of time depends entirely on the style of post you make.  When I write a post that requires lots of research those are usually done over the course of several days, with me keeping notes in a Google drive document.  My “normal” style of posting however takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour of me sitting down at the keyboard and physically writing it out.

Finding Your Time

When I launched this blog in 2009 I spent a lot of my lunch hours writing posts.  For the most part this worked great because it was a fixed block of time when I was not really doing anything else.  The problem is as work got busier, and I started actually going out for lunch… my noon writing block evaporated.  There were more than a few days when I was working on a problem that I could not set down long enough to write a post, and by the time whatever had been fixed… I was usually too drained mentally to produce something worth reading.  I wont say this was the reason behind some of my larger lapses but it was certainly a contributing factor.  When I started on my “Grand Experiment” I knew I was going to have to figure out something else to do.  I had gotten in the habit of going upstairs with my morning coffee and piddling around in a video game for thirty minutes to an hour before actually going into work.  This “boot up”  time greatly improved my cognitive ability by the time I got to work, so it was actually something that turned out to be pretty beneficial.

When finding your own block of time you have to evaluate your own schedule.  Where is a block that you are doing something every single day, or every few days…  that you could tweak a bit to turn that into a time to write your blog posts?  For me I happily sacrificed my morning game time in an effort to give myself a regular place to write words and things.  This however has been a double edged sword.  I literally cannot start my day without writing a blog post, and the days when I have to do something differently and stage the post the night before…  I feel like something is off the entire day.  I have incorporated this writing phase into my morning boot up routine and when it is missing, I am just not fully functional.  Additionally the problem of writing while you are not entirely awake means sometimes entire blocks of text don’t really make much sense.  Thankfully the frequency of my posting makes up for some of this.  When you are posting every single day, your readers cut you a lot more slack for having an “off day”.

Keep a Contract

The other nice fringe benefit of morning writing is that you feel like you have accomplished some thing.  No matter how south the rest of the day turns, you will have at least had a tiny victory that morning.  For years my wife has done something that I just did not understand until I looked at my own blogging.  When we clean the house we usually divide and conquer, meaning I take certain rooms and she takes certain rooms.  One of the rooms she always wants to do is the Bathroom and I have never understood why she tackles it first thing.  She has always said it made her feel like she had accomplished something, and I guess in a way gets those good vibe endorphins flowing making the rooms that are more painful a little easier to do.  I can definitely see this whole process working because I absolutely see these same kind of benefits with my own blog posts.  No matter how frustrating the rest of the day is… I at least accomplished writing another post and I continued the chain of daily postings by one more day.

Whatever your block or your schedule I think the absolute most important thing is to treat it like a contract.  It becomes extremely easy to give yourself an excuse for not writing one day, that turns into not writing for an entire month.  Before I ventured down the path of daily writing there were so many times when I told myself “I just am not feeling it” and let myself off the hook without writing a post.  Then as months went by of “not feeling it” it became harder to actually start the process again.  In order to keep a schedule you need a certain amount of rigor in your life, and a willingness to sacrifice other things to make sure the ball keeps moving forward.  I know this might sound like an odd statement, especially for something that we all consider a hobby.  The problem is you can’t really treat it like a hobby and achieve the predictable regularity that your readers will want.  In many was blogging is a second job, admittedly one you do out of love… but there still needs to be some constraints on your time.  At this point I have blogged every single day for over two years… so I have this pressure built up in NOT missing a single day.  I have motivation to keep going, and keep writing… and I think it is this motivation that you have to find for yourself.

Talkback Challenge 1

Avoiding a Topic

First off I have to say I am a huge proponent of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, and try my best to do whatever I can to support it.  Unfortunately I do a pretty bad job of actually participating in anything that is going on the forums.  This year I had told myself that I would try really hard to participate more and do more of the various writing prompts.  You know that whole “lead by example” type argument.  The problem is the very first topic is something that I find both repulsive and deeply scary at the same time.  Izlain seems to love to revel in controversial topics, and has recorded podcasts on various incendiary topics in the past, so I really should not be shocked this ended up as a writing prompt.

The aim of the Talkback Challenge is to engage new bloggers on a topic and provide contrasting views on that specific matter. It is also designed to encourage follow-up discussions and blog posts which further widen the level of interaction. The goal is to generate discussion on newbie blogs, raise their respective profile and share traffic. The NBI has run such activities for several years now and they have proven both informative and engaging. The opening topic for debate this time round is “how did GamerGate affect you”?

The prompt itself is pretty straight forward.  How were you effected by GamerGate, but the answer as always is far more nuanced.  I just finished writing my Bonanza post over on MMOGames and during the course of it I ran through all of the responses to this question that were available at the time of posting.  I was somehow bolstered by the fact that the majority of these posts seemed to have no real effect.  The problem is…  for those who were effected this is a really touchy subject.  The fact that someone actually wants to be talking about this makes me realize that in truth they were largely left unscathed.  All of this said, I am going to tackle this topic because I promised myself that I would actually do the writing prompts.

Talkback Challenge 1

GamerGate cycled through the community like nothing I had ever seen before.  It was swift and it was obnoxious…  and quickly moved into the realm of the really damned creepy.  Folks were using the tag without really understanding the consequences.  The claim of the movement is that GamerGate is “About Ethics in Journalism” but this claim has never really matched up to the effects seen in the community.  So much so that this has become a meme and filed away in the internet as yet another meaningless phrase.  What I saw instead was a lot of my friends getting really scared to speak their mind.  This hive mind of hatred seemed to be going after anyone who was “different” from what they saw as the cultural norm.  This meant that women and the lgbt community seemed to garner the brunt of the assault.  I talked to lots of friends who considered just stopping blogging because of the fear and paranoia that was rampant.

The problem is I am by nature not extremely combative.  You can make personal attacks against me and it really usually doesn’t phase me.  However when you take on my friends, and make them feel less than what they are…  then I start to get upset.  In the grand scheme of things I didn’t speak out as harshly as I probably should have on the subject.  I made a pretty general post about how I wish we would “Be Awesome Human Beings”.  Which drew the attention of a Gater that followed me and proceeded to try and argue with me about ethics in journalism in the comments.  I didn’t want to get drawn into his discussion and he kept trying to bring me back to his personal brand of right wing philosophy.  Ultimately I ended up un-following and blocking the person on twitter.  Within a few days of posting this relatively straight forward article, my blog came under fire of a DDoS.  At first I thought nothing about it, since hosting companies get denial of service attacks all of the time.  The thing is… it seemed to be targeted at ONLY the server cluster my blog was on.

Message Delivered

A short time after that my twitter handle appeared on a list of supposed “Social Justice Warriors” that were to be avoided.  Granted half of the people I know ended up on that same list, but while it was a point of pride… it also felt a bit like a veiled threat.  It felt very much like a list of people who “thought wrong” and should be targeted.  When you combine that with the DDoS I won’t like it freaked me out a bit.  I tried my best to exorcise my social networks of any Gamer Gate sympathizers, or at least the ones who were loudly supporting it… and I moved on with my life.  I tried my best to support those who were getting attacked, but I didn’t feel like I supported the other extreme either.  Ultimately I just wanted us all to get along and stop being assholes to each other.  That is the mission I have kept trying to move forward.  I am a tiny blue dot in a very read ocean, but I manage to get along with most of my friends, coworkers and neighbors because we respect each other not enough to try and jam our own personal philosophies down each others throats.

The problem is Gamer Gate has left me scarred.  When someone new follows me on social media the first thing I do is scan down through their posting history to make sure they are not somehow a GG leaner.  I don’t want to make people out to be the bogeyman of the internet, but I also don’t really want that sort of influence screwing up my relatively happy place.  I have tried my best to limit the about of negativity in my world.  It ultimately makes me a happier person, and GG and the vehemently Anti-GG communities both are something I can do without.  That said I am by no means trying to be neutral anymore.  I am not a supporter of the GamerGate community by any means, and the whole situation deeply saddens me.  I don’t want to be made to feel like shit for anything I do, from anyone.  So I am going to keep doing what I am doing, and keep enjoying the things I enjoy and try my damnedest to forget the negative forces still exist.  You cannot get me to believe like you do by yelling at me louder, and you cannot convince me of your point with circular logic.  Ultimately I hope the internet and gamers in particular mature and learn to make decisions on their own merit and not connected to some larger agenda.

Reluctant Blogger

My First Blog

nbimmogames-666x271 This mornings blog post is inspired by a conversation I saw yesterday between two friends about the starting of a new blog.  There are many people that have this strong desire to start a blog, but for whatever reason lack the confidence to push them over the edge to actually putting a plan in motion.  Some people are gifted with a clear vision for what they want to write about, and a firm purpose to make it all happen.  That unfortunately is not most of us.  Most of us have this burning desire to write, but are also strapped with crippling self doubt.  While I might look like I know what I am doing, I am here to tell you that every single day is a struggle to keep making content.  While I have been doing this for six years now, and been doing the every day thing for two…  I still don’t really know what I am doing on a regular basis.  I take each new day as it comes and try and figure out exactly what I should be doing in the process.

This morning I want to tell you a story about another blog.  I started Tales of the Aggronaut in 2009 with a firm purpose, and a vision for what I wanted it to be.  The thing is..  I never would have gotten to that point had another blog not existed.  Back in 2005 I stared a blogspot blog because I had this overwhelming desire to write.  The problem being that I didn’t really know what to write about.  I mostly wrote about my misadventures, and a little bit about the ins and outs of our family.  But early on I knew there was a big part of my life that I just wasn’t talking about… because I felt like no one would want to hear about it.  So my first blog was ultimately a failure because it didn’t really represent my gaming.  Additionally Tales of the Aggronaut I feel was an initial failure because it failed to represent more than just my gaming hobby.  What finally ended up working…  eight years later…  was a blending of both.  Lots of gaming, but still the freedom to talk about whatever else happened to be happening to me.

Reluctant Blogger

My first blog was a blog that hardly anyone read, because I lacked the self confidence to talk about it publically.  It was very much a private journal that I let the occasional person know about.  The folks that did read it seemed to like it, and urged me to do more, but in the back of my head there was always this nagging voice.  “There is nothing you have to say that isn’t already being said… and  being said better.”  This is the voice you have to ignore to be able to keep blogging, because it never really goes away.  There is not a single day when I don’t hear it still.  Every time I hit the publish button I have to hold my breath and close my eyes and click it… because even after doing this for all these years I still struggle to defeat my inner doubt.  It would be amazing if I could tell you that it just magically goes away, but I can at least say that over time it lessens.  The voice has less sway over me than it once did, which I guess is a step in the right direction.

You might say to yourself that you have nothing to say, and that others are saying it better…  but the act of you saying it makes it special and unique.  I could read fifty blog posts on exactly the same subject and each and every one would have some nugget that the others did not.  While we might be espousing the same ideas… each of us is adding our own experience to that mix.  Right now, before you start down this journey you might believe that you don’t have a voice worth hearing but I am telling you that you do.  Be honest with yourself, and write about the things you want to write about…  and somewhere in between your voice will trickle to the surface.  Blogging is not about being controversial or brilliant, but instead about being honest and letting the world see who you really are and what think.  This act of sharing is precious, and makes whatever it is that you choose to share more than worthy of our attention.  We are this culmination of our emotions, experiences, actions and thoughts wrapped up together making anything you have to say on any subject uniquely nuanced.

Lets Get Started

As I wrote to the Wayward Bloggers a few days ago, this morning I am writing to the Reluctant Bloggers.    I am addressing the folks that want to start a blog but for whatever reason are being held back from doing so.  If you are watching the Newbie Blogger Initiative and feel that tiny tug trying to get you to start your own epic blog, I ask you to hop down off the fence you are sitting on and get started.  The Newbie Blogger Initiative is the perfect time to get things in motion because you have an entire community waiting her ready to give you that hand up.  There are an almost overwhelming number of ways to get started.  Most people start with either a WordPress.com or a Blogger.com and go from there.  Blogger is without a doubt the easiest way to get started, but WordPress will make transitioning to a self hosted site in the future less of a hassle.  In either case, the act of getting something started is the important thing.  If these seem “too real” for you to get your feet wet, then I suggest starting a blog on Anook.com and seeing how things work for you.

Some people are gifted with the ability to start writing quality content from day one.  In my permission to suck post from last year I talk about the fact that I was not one of those people.  I struggled for a long time to find my format and to find my voice.  My blog itself has gone through so many transitions from WoW Blog, Rift Blog, to ultimately becoming a fairly game agnostic blog about me as a person and my gaming habit.  The truth is that you should expect to hate the first dozen posts you make within a years time.  Like I said there are the occasional folks that can crank out amazing stuff, but I personally would be happy never to see the first several years worth of posts on this blog.  The awesome thing about being human beings is that we are able to change and to adapt, and expect your blog and your writing to do the same.  Just like learning to ride a bike was wobbly at first, your blog will be a bit wobbly and that is okay.  You are doing something that you are going to get better at, and we as a community will be here to help you.  Now you simply have to get started.

The Wayward Blogger

Tyranny of a Blank Page

nbimmogames-666x271 Early in the week I had this idea of what I was going to write about for Storytime Saturday, and it was something good.  The problem is as Saturday has now happened I cannot for the life of me remember what it was that I wanted to write about.  Jaedia says this is why she keeps notes…  but I ultimately fail at doing that.  I have literally hundreds of “Untitled” Google documents with only a few sentences in them, so note taking is not exactly my strong suit.  Actually the problem isn’t the notes themselves but the organization.  Some people can neatly compartmentalize their lives into subjects and categories and then there are people like me that are shocked and amazed if anything goes as planned… because we are constantly rewriting that plan as we go along.  This is the point where I admit that I really have no prep work for my blog.

This is a curse and a blessing both depending on the day.  As I could not think of anything to write about this morning it was a curse.  The fact that I could start banging away on my keys and make something work as I went along…  is the blessing.  As writers we have to find whatever it is that works for us.  I’ve always tended to be one of those “rough outline” people, that I need a sketch of a roadmap…  but then prefer to fill in the details as I go allowing myself to be flexible and adjust to change as it happens.  The irony of this… is that I am pretty damned adaptable, but I still end up hating change in most forms.  I guess when you choose to life your life is a state of loosely organized chaos, you learn to really respect the parts of your life that you can commit to routine.  Those are the stable base that you build your ever changing life upon, so when one of those things changes you notice it.

The Wayward Blogger

One of the things I took special time to point out yesterday in all of my NBI 2015 announcements… was that we are also looking for what I termed the “Wayward Blogger”.  I guess this hits home for me especially because still deep within my core I am one of you.  I was a Wayward blogger for years, with weeks where I was extremely active, and month long pauses in activity.  If I could do this whole blogging daily thing naturally then I wouldn’t need to challenge myself by calling it the “Grand Experiment” and keeping track of each and every day  that goes by where I didn’t break the streak.  If you look through my blogs history you will find several six or seven month lapses in posting, and today during Storytime Saturday I guess I want to address those.  Not necessarily why the lapses happened but what my mental state was like during each.

The problem with a blog is when it starts to get popular you feel like you are forced to produce content.  The irony of doing the blogging every day thing, is that in many ways it is a gimmick.  When you are producing that much content people are generally forgiving on your off days.  Not every single post I make is meaningful or important, and some of them are going to flat out honestly suck.  I’ve talked about the “permission to suck” before, but it is even more than just this.  When you are blogging infrequently you feel like you have to write gold every single time you set your fingers to your keyboard.  This pressure is overwhelming sometimes and each day that passes gets internalized as another rung higher your subsequent post has to be to make up for the fact that it has been six months.

Permission to be Boring

I have no stats on this, but this is something I have heard from each and every other person that has gone dormant.  That they don’t blog because they feel like they simply don’t have anything to say that is worthy of that “triumphant return” post.  This is the instinct we have to figure out how to subvert if we are going to be happy bloggers.  Like the permission to suck when you are just starting out, you have to give yourself the permission to be boring on occasion.  Writing a “return” post is often like ripping off a band aid.  You need to get it over with quickly so you can get on with the normal business of writing posts.  The thing you have to realize is that for most readers your blog has been shuffled into a RSS Reader along with the rest of the people that they follow.  They will notice when you come back, but no one is actually there waiting every single day for that “epic post” you have built up in your head.

Ultimately if anyone is going to read a blog for any length of time, there is a transition that happens.  You stop caring so much about what is being written and begin to focus on the person behind the screen.  Those people, the ones that have transitioned to caring about you as a human being…  they will always be there when you return to welcome you with open arms.  The other folks who were only there when you were producing that thing they desired on that specific moment…  they will always be fickle and aren’t really worth the heartache and frustration.  You need to ask yourself what exactly do you want to write about and then focus on doing just that.  So many of us started our blogs as one thing, and then realized whatever that “one” thing was no longer sustainable.  We then transitioned into writing about the things that made us happy, and have kept going because of whatever that “thing” was.

I Am Proof

Essentially I offer myself as proof that you too can be a pillar of stability in the community.  I was quite possibly one of the least prolific bloggers, with some pretty massive absences.  The longest one that I can remember was the seven months that passed between the last blog post and me rededicating myself to doing the daily blogging experiment.  Each time I felt like a complete failure for letting the blog posts stop.  Each time I beat myself up for not being able to crank out content when I “wasn’t feeling it”.  Each time I could not get the desire that I should be writing something out of my head, and ultimately this small amount of madness lead me to put fingers to keyboard again and start writing.  Now is when I let you in on a little secret…  that inner doubt, the bit of you that tells you not to post.  That never actually goes away.  Most mornings I have to hold my breath and close my eyes… and press the publish button, because the inner voice inside me is constantly telling me that whatever I am doing simply isn’t good enough.

I was and still am in many ways a Wayward Blogger, I am just learning how to overcome those instincts and force myself to perform.  I don’t know what I am doing most days, and in truth I don’t even have a clue.  I just keep moving forward and adapting to whatever happens, coming up with things on the fly as I push forward.  If I can do this…  quite literally anyone can.  I am possibly the least qualified person to be doing what I am doing on a daily basis, yet I keep finding a way to make it happen.  You are significantly more talented than I am, and will go on and make more magic than I could ever dream of.  You simply have to push yourself to do it.  Prove it to yourself, prove it to the community… that you can be our next shining star.  The support is there, you just need to make it happen by finding what it is that you love talking about, and start writing.  My hope this Newbie Blogger Initiative is not so much that we get this massive crop of new bloggers, but that instead we find a way to rekindle the fires of bloggers that have long gone dormant.  If I can do this so can you.

Newbie Blogger Initiative 2015

It’s That Time Again!

nbi-blog-logo Well folks it is once again May the First and as such time for us to begin the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  For those that are unfamiliar with this program, I thought I would take a few minutes this morning and talk about what exactly it is and what you can expect from it over the coming month.  May is essentially the month that bloggers set aside to helping create more bloggers.  In order to do what we do we need a thriving community to live in, and this is our version of a neighborhood block party.  I once referred to NBI as the BlizzCon of the gaming blogosphere, because really this is the event I look forward to each year.  It is exciting seeing all of the new faces filtered into our world, and seeing others rededicate themselves to creating more frequent content.  Others of us just enjoy helping folks out to get their start with whatever projects they are wanting to do.

For New Bloggers

If you have ever thought about creating a blog, a podcast, or a youtube channel this event is solely centered around you.  For years we have heard that “blogging” is dead but the fact that I have over five hundred active blogs in my feedly account would disagree.  Each time I go to read through my gaming blogs it is like drinking from a firehose.  I love this and I love the fact that there is so much creativity packed into this community.  However in order to keep this a vibrant and fresh community we keep needing to infuse it with some new blood and new ideas.  One of the most difficult parts about starting any new venture is getting an audience.  It can be frustrating to feel like you are writing into the void, and in part the Newbie Blogger Initiative is here to give you what you need most…  exposure.

During this month the gaming blogosphere turns its eyes to the Newbie Blogger Initiative and by choosing to start a blog during this month we are essentially hand delivering you readers.  Now of course starting the blog is the easy part, creating regular and creative content is the challenge.  Throughout the month veteran bloggers will be giving you tips and tricks that we have to help ease your transition.  This has always been a very blogging centric event, but we want to embrace all gaming content.  There have been quite the number of new podcasts spawned out of this event and the connections with other bloggers, as well as a few folks dipping their toes into video creation.  Essentially the sky is the limit on what you can do, but you have to start someplace and we are here to help.

For Veteran Bloggers

While all of this love is getting thrown around on the new bloggers, it is  really the Veteran bloggers that make up the backbone of this initiative.  We need you, your ideas and your wisdom.  Blogging is rough, and getting up and doing this on a daily basis means we need some tools to be able to lean on.  Each of you started out as a fledgling blogger at one point or another, and many of you got a massive boost by the Newbie Blogger Initiative in the past.  Now is the time for us to step up and help the next generation to become the awesome bloggers of tomorrow.  Many times these new bloggers just need someone to talk to and bounce their ideas off.  I personally am always open to new blogger queries and during the course of this event I will end up trying to make a personal connection with as many of the new folks as I can.

What we need more than anything however is for you to keep making awesome content.  Let the bloggers know what works for you, what you have figured out doesn’t work, and general ideas about how to make a blog successful.  I’ve talked about a lot of topics in the  past, and there are a few of them I end up dusting off almost every year.  More than anything we need you showing that this is an achievable goal, and that given dedication you can succeed.  Each of us has tricks that we use to keep us going, and at the end of the day someone starting this is going to need a big bag of tricks to lean on.  Channel your gifts in whatever direction you feel best be it with writing prompts, tutorials or lessons learned, but whatever they might be we need you to make this work.  There are already folks signed up on the forums waiting for us to find them, so I suggest you sign up as mentor today.

For Wayward Bloggers

Now especially I want to address a special kind of blogger this year that I might not have in the past.  Have you lost your way blogging, and somehow lost the will to put pen to paper and create new content?  While I am generally thought of as this prolific daily blogger, there are some pretty massive lapses in my blogging history.  I recently celebrated my second anniversary of making posts every single day…  but prior to starting that there was a seven month lag in my blog.  It is easy to “fall off the wagon” for lack of a better term.  Life gets in the way and your font of inspiration dries up…  then the longer you wait to make a post the more pressure you put yourself under about making said post.  We are our own worst enemies, and as the months tick you suddenly realize you are no longer really a blogger.

Newbie Blogger Initiative is also the perfect time of the year for you to get active once again.  Sometimes we start down a path that doesn’t end up as sustainable for our interests, and other times life just simply throws us a curve ball.  In any case I urge you to take this month to get back into blogging.  We are here and waiting to help you with whatever you might need to tweak on your blog to make it sustainable.  We are also waiting with a ready audience to consume your brand new and shiny content.  Each year we lose a number of bloggers to life, and I am hoping to help resurrect some of them and get them making content once more.  The Newbie Blogger Initiative is so much more than just a launch pad for new blogs.  It can be the vitalization of our community every single year, giving us a new perspective to carry us through the next year.  If you want to come back to blogging regularly, we are waiting for you.

#NBI2015

Blaugust is Coming

A New Challenger Awaits

A bit over a year ago I embarked on what I called the “grand experiment” and idea to force myself to blog something new each and every day.  Since then I’ve awoken each morning, and gone through the process of writing a brand new post.  At this point I have over four hundred thirty of these posts and I don’t intend to stop the momentum any time soon.  There are so many days when doing this is a struggle, but I feel like I am committed to something larger than myself.  There are many days the fact that I have gone so long without breaking the chain is the only thing that gives me the drive to finish a post.  Even when I feel like I have no inspiration at all, the act of sitting down and working through my ritual seems to cause a post to materialize in front of me.

This past month my wife decided to take on the challenge of posting something every day and she has gone through some of the same struggles I did starting out.  There are so many days I felt like I didn’t really have anything worth posting, or that anyone would be interested in reading.  It turns out that oddly enough I have this group of readers that are interested in me, and not so much what I happen to be reading about.  But watching her go through this struggle gave me an idea.  The Newbie Blogger initiative has been amazing and produces some great writers, and gives us a month to focus on promoting this new talent.  What I am suggesting is that we follow this initiative up with a challenge of sorts, our own version of NaNoWriMo in a way.

The idea is rather simple.  During the month of August I challenge you my blogging peers to take up the mantle of daily posts.  To win the contest, you must post one new entry each day.  Now personally I tend to view staged posts that are written in batch as cheating, to make things easier on the varied schedules this is totally fair game.  There are several of you out there that already post regularly… and that is awesome.  I totally hope each and every one of you will enter into the challenge, but what I am hoping even more is to spur the folks who post maybe once a week into producing content more regularly.  The media has said that blogging is dead… and I want us to prove to the world that it is very much alive and breathing.  Additionally my intent is to try and advertise as many of the daily bloggers as I can through my own blog and social media outlets.

Bonus Round

The act of blogging every day is a truly awesome thing…  but I want more from you.  More or less I am targeting the gaming blogosphere with this concept.  We are all very comfortable writing a post about this game or that, and generally not so comfortable writing about ourselves.  One of the big things that came out of my “Grand Experiment” has been a willingness to share my life with you all.  Trust me it was not the easiest thing to do, but as a bonus I challenge you all to try and do the same.  I am talking baby steps here and not expecting folks to do anything like my “Factoid February” right away.  While I appreciate good gaming content, ultimately I care about the person behind the screen and not the persona you develop.

As an additional effort I challenge you all to start being more personal.  If something happens of note in your life, even if it is not gaming related… share it in blog post form.  This really serves two purposes.  Firstly you are letting your readers behind the scenes into your life, and showing that you have the same struggles everyone has.  Secondly writing from your own life is a good way to solve the whole writers block issue that will hit you around the second week.  Each of us leads a far more interesting life than we think, but I admit I was scared to share too much of myself.  I thought I would see everyone that was reading my blog run screaming into the night.  Turns out that apparently folks actually liked it, and I have noticed a slow and steady increase in my readership since I started trying to share more of myself in each days post.

A Little Help Along the Way

While August is still a few weeks out, I wanted to get the word out so folks could “psyche” themselves up for this.  I will not however be throwing you all to the wolves and expecting you to complete this journey alone.  Right now I am working on all sorts of “fodder” to help you spur your creative juices.  My intent is to have a huge post or two of blog prompts so that when you are struggling to find something you want to write about… you can cherry pick one of those and create brilliance.  Additionally while I am already doing this…  we will be in essence embarking on this mission together.  As a community we will help each other stay true to the mission.

One of the most awesome things about NaNoWriMo was the support I got from the other members of the twitter blogger community.  I would have never reached the goal if not for the support of awesome people like MMOGC and BlueKae just to name a couple.  So while I am already doing this and have done it for a year now…  we are still in this together.  When you resolve to writing each and every day… there is a point at which it just magically becomes easier.  I feel like at this point I could sit down and knock out a few paragraphs on almost any subject if needed…  and that is a pretty awesome thing.  I’ve found this also help me in the working world, as I am never afraid to tackle a project charter or writing a large block of copy.  If you endeavor to join this adventure, I promise there will be a hand to hold in the process.

The Prizes

I am still working on the details here, but I want there to be something cool from participating.  At the very least you will have earned the right to post an “I Survived Blaugust 2014” trophy on your blog sidebar, but I want there to be something more as well.  My plan is to enter everyone that participates in a drawing for something larger.  I just have not determined what exactly that “larger” is and some of that will be determined by just how many people participate.  Ultimately I will come up with something cool, and will be keeping folks updated as we get closer to the August 1st start date.  My hope is that I am giving more than enough warning to let folks prepare for the challenge.

[Edit]

I threw together a quick Anook community for the Blaugust event because I figured it would be the easiest way to coordinate things.  Please pop over and join the nook!

#Blaugust

Nexus Destiny

Bel Against Nature

treefrog As I said yesterday morning, last night we had a big end of school cookout to attend and in spite of my antisocial tendencies I enjoyed myself quite a bit.  However this morning I am paying for that enjoyment as my sinuses and lungs are full of crud from “extended exposure to nature”.  The food however was amazing as was the company.  This little guy showed up towards the end of the night, and we all ended up snapping photos of him.  Firstly I had zero clue that Tree Frogs existed in Oklahoma, secondly if they did I didn’t realize they could be green.  Most of the frogs you see around here are muddy brown or grey to mix into the surroundings.  According to the biology teacher in the midst this guy is NOT native to Oklahoma, but we have no clue where he comes from.

The other thing I am wishing I had snapped a photo of were the kittens.  One of them tried really hard to come home with us, and I totally would have been cool with that…  if I didn’t think it would completely upset the existing balance with our three cats.  These babies were the most chill and relaxed I have seen.  One of them I carried around in the crook of my arm on her back like I would a ferret.  She was all to happy to have my scratch her belly, and none of them really seemed to use their claws at all.  The most entertaining thing was listening to the back and forth with the parents as the various kids tried really hard to adopt one for their own.  One girl damned near outlined a PowerPoint presentation for exactly why she should have a cat.  But alas her mother decided that she would rather have a crying daughter than a divorce.

I have a sneaking suspicion that in our household this will not be the end of the talk of the adorable kittens.  Right now our eldest cat is extremely picky, and I am afraid bringing a little one into the mix would set her off.  That said it is impossible to find more relaxed cats than these I think.  I am such a softie when it comes to little furry things.  The desire to adopt them all is why we had six cats at one point.  Over the years we’ve had two bunnies, six different ferrets, two sugar gliders, a hamster, a guinea pig, and in total ten different cats to date.  So I am sure there will be more cats in our future, in spite of me putting up a good defense… I always eventually give in.  Right now I am happy with just cats and ferrets though, and I doubt I will branch out into other fuzzy children again.

Newbie Blogger Initiative

Today is the last day of the Newbie Blogger Initiative for 2014, and I feel like I should have probably done more.  This year I have set in a different role, doing more personal tutelage of participants than big informational posts.  Mostly this happened because as far as a advice goes I am not sure what I could say that has not already been articulated better.  I don’t really know what I am doing, and I am still very much figuring it out on a daily basis.  In a way I have been a Newbie this year as well in that this is our first year doing the podcast.  Tonight will be our 8th episode, so I am pretty proud of how that has progressed so far.  I am also very much a newbie at this whole streaming thing, even though this month I have cut down massively on the amount of time I have devoted to it.  May is pure hell, but hopefully as we move into June things will chill out quite a bit.

About mid month I reworked my blogroll so I have all of the Class of 2014 blogs listed there.  You should totally check them out because this crop is doing some pretty great things.  What has been the most interesting for me personally is that a number of my long term friends have opted to start or recommit to blogs this month as well.  I have each of them in my blogroll and I have been seeing some pretty great stuff come out of the “noobs”.  We as a community need this event, to help replace the many people who just stop blogging each year for whatever reason.  As someone who spends a lot of time doing this… I fully understand the desire to throw up your arms and stop.  That said we need this transfusion of talent each year to help keep the gaming blogosphere a vibrant place.

Here is a rundown of my NBI topics this month.

So I guess at the end of the month I didn’t do as poorly as I thought I did.  Six posts devoted to NBI2014 is probably better than I did during the 2013 run.  My only real regret is that I didn’t come up with anything brilliant for Syl’s Poetry Slam.  I think maybe the topic of “Magic” threw me for a loop, because I have a very negative feeling towards “finger wigglers” as I call them.  I am at home with swords and shields and shotguns…  but I have always shied away from casters and wizards and spell slingers.  I tried to come up with an epic about slaying an evil necromancer… but nothing really worked.  So I wish I had come up with something, but I am sure she will have plenty of entries this year to choose from.

Nexus Destiny

WildStar64 2014-05-31 08-21-05-015 Today is the beginning of the Headstart for Wildstar.  I think the servers came up last night at Midnight PST, which would have made it 2 am for me.  I have a deep seething hatred of all of these launch dates being centered around PST, but I not much you can do about it when a studio is from the west coast.  I was so damned happy when the Elder Scrolls Online times were all based on East Coast.  All of this gnashing of teeth aside, I got in this morning rather smoothly and created Belghast the Chua Engineer and Belgrave the Human Warrior.  Both of which are on Evindra the PVE-RP server… which is where all the sane and rational people seem to be rolling characters.  I say that jokingly, but almost all of my twitter list will apparently be on that one server, so even if folks are not all in the same guild it will be good to at least have them all centralized on the same server community.

WildStar64 2014-05-31 08-24-14-744 This is the new Belghast… while I could not do anything vaguely close to my traditional “Bel” look as an angry bunny/rat/thing I feel like I captured the “feeling”.  Something about playing as a Chua immediately made this game more enjoyable.  I think mostly it is the animations, and the fact that in early games I always favored dwarves or small races in general.  My original Everquest character was a Dwarf and my first WoW characters were all also Dwarves.  So while this seems like a huge departure race wise for me… someone who mostly rolls humans, it is more a “getting back to my roots” of sorts.  I am still up in the air about this game, but I am going to give it a fair shake.  I did not intend to like Final Fantasy XIV at all, but ended up having a blast playing it.  So I am hoping that Wildstar will be another similar case.  I feel like this is precisely the game that I would have loved… about five years ago, but I’ve changed massively since then.  Here is hoping there is a game inside of Wildstar that the current me will enjoy.  In any case I plan on still playing quite a bit of Elder Scrolls as well.

#Wildstar #NBI2014

The Ritual

Bad Mentor

It is generally this point in the month that I start to feel like I have not done enough to help out the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  I am not very active on the forums, and I thus far have not been active at all in the Steam Group.  I managed to miss both the Hearthstone tournament and the League of Legends night because I was recording Aggrochat during the events.  I’ve only managed to post a few articles relating to the NBI so far this season, so it is generally at this point that I feel like I have to get my act together.  One of the things that I did as a result was port my blogroll over to a database driven system that I had been meaning to for some time.  This has made it far easier for me to update not only my main blogroll but also highlight specific groups, in this case the Class of 2014.

At some point when I was not paying attention, we zoomed from about fifteen blogs to twenty seven as of yesterday when I was setting up my blogroll.  Had I been watching the forums I would have realized this, but this so far is a really impressive turnout for the third running of this event.  I’ve added them all to my feedly and I look forward to seeing the wonderful stuff they post over this next year.  Several of the folks have hit the ground running and have already racked up a dozen or so posts on their respective blogs, so I am thinking this might be one of our most prolific groups yet.  In light of this I am not sure what sage advice I really have to give that they don’t seem to be taking to heart already.

This year has been less about making proclamations for me, and more about reaching out and getting to know some of the individuals involved in the NBI.  While it seems like the sort of thing I do normally on twitter, I have fielded a lot of questions from various members of the group.  Hopefully in some small way this has helped, but I still feel like I could be doing so much more.  Ultimately May is a fairly horrible month for me, as the spouse of a teacher there are two hellacious time of the year…  beginning of school and end of school.  Couple this with a string of weddings and graduations to attend and I feel wildly off balance right now.  Its moments like these that I entrench and try and narrow my focus so I keep doing the things that have to be done.

The Ritual

In the middle of this hell month, I feel mostly void of good advice, however there is one thing that I feel like I can pass along.  There are as many kinds of blogs as there are bloggers out there, each of them can and should be unique.  However each of them should also have some form of a natural schedule.  While I do not promote the daily blogging madness that I embarked upon over a year ago, I feel like most bloggers can and should find a specific schedule for writing.  One of the interesting things about a schedule is it forces you to think about how you can find the time to specifically carve out that chunk of time, and what you need to reschedule or push to one side or another to make it happen.

As I said my personal schedule is blogging each and every day, and in order to accomplish this I had to build a sort of ritual.  Every morning I get up, turn on the television to start my wife waking up and stumble into the kitchen to flip the Keurig on.  I hop in the shower and after getting dressed make a cup of Revv for myself and a travel mug full of whatever flavor my wife happens to be making.  At this point I mutter “going upstairs” and find my way to my office.  Here I sit for the next thirty minutes to an hour banging away at the keyboard in Live Writer until I have something that vaguely resembles a post.  I give it the most summary of glances to look for anything odd, assign categories and tags and post it as a draft.  Finally I open up the wordpress backend and edit my posting options, making the tweet have the relevant hashtags before finally publishing.  On a good day this all happens within a thirty minute window… on a bad day upwards to an hour.

In either case I have set up a block of time every single morning and committed it to a routine.  The weekends are a bit more haphazard as I find that it seems writing with time constraints tends to speed my process.  When I have too much time available and no real pressure to finish quickly… I can take upwards of two hours to knock out my post.  Occasionally when I know I won’t have time to write on a given morning, I stage my post the night before… but I really don’t like doing this.  When you have a pattern and follow it religiously… your entire day feels off when you don’t blog.  So those days where I have staged content and I simply hit the post button in the morning… I feel like something is missing from the day.  In essence my brain has learned to crave these little data dumps.

Finding Your Schedule

This pattern works for me, and it is something I have come to rely on.  You need to find your own pattern, be it posting something each week on a specific day or posting something every few days.  The pattern helps, and your readers come to expect your content.  It is getting to the point where if I do not make my morning post for some reason, folks start emailing/tweeting/IMing me to see if I am okay.  Thankfully this has happened only a few times, and due to extraneous circumstances, but I still made posts those days albeit significantly delayed.  The schedule helps me think more than anything, it helps focus me on a goal of doing this one thing and repeating it.  The interesting thing about carving out a block of time like this, is that you realize you can do the same for other things you want to do as well.

Basically look at your routine, the things you do every single day and see if there is one of those you can hack into “also” being writing time.  For me this was simple… I was already used to going upstairs each morning and drinking my coffee while reading my RSS feed or playing a game for a bit to wake myself up.  I simply stopped doing those other activities, and substituted writing in its place.  Look at your daily activity and see if you have a similar places where you could substitute in writing instead.  Do you have a long commute to work on public transportation?  I wish I had one of those… I would spend the entire time banging out ideas on my chromebook and then posting them later when I got to a stable internet connection.  Do you have a lunch time ritual, that you could including writing in?  Each of us has some time that we can claim for ourselves and for writing, and you need to find yours.

Ammunition

When I make my posts, they tend to be very spontaneous and stream of consciousness, as I compose at the keyboard without a lot of thought beforehand.  This works for me, but it doesn’t work for others.  I’ve had conversations with Gypsy Syl about this a few times, and how instead she tends to sit on a post for a bit and groom it until it is ready to be made.  Both are awesome ways to write, and both have strengths and weaknesses, but in both cases they need something to feed the process.  One of the hardest things about keeping a schedule is always having something you want to say.  I find I have to keep various things for inspiration that can be drawn upon at a moments notice.  Since I only have thirty minutes to an hour to write each morning, I need to have a system for getting my creative juices flowing quickly.

The biggest source of inspiration for me is my blogroll, and as a result I tend to keep mine packed full of stuff.  At this very moment I have 626 unread articles in my feed reader, from an unknown number of sources.  If I find something interesting, I dump it in my reader and I do a pretty poor job of categorizing.  I tend to have a “Gaming” firehose that I try and drink from when I need inspiration or have idle time while running errands or at the beginning of meetings.  Sometimes this just isn’t enough to start the process in motion.  Additionally I try and keep a google doc going of little fragments of ideas that come to me throughout the day.  Inevitably the second you hit publish, you think of thirty other things that you should have said.  Capture these… while some of them are crap, some of them will be absolute gems that need to be refined at a later date.  Keeping this list of potential topics also makes for a great start on those days when you don’t have any ideas.

Contingency Plan

I am extremely devoted to my chosen schedule, and I will do absolute silly things to make sure that it is maintained.  Part of this is knowing your schedule ahead of time, and plotting your life around it.  Like I said before, I write every morning, but occasionally there are mornings where I cannot write.  As a result I set aside time the night before, or later in the morning to be able to get my post ready and out the door.  Before you embark upon a schedule, have ways that you can juggle your writing to make sure that the schedule is maintained without breaking you in the process.  If you are going on vacation, it is perfectly okay to write a bunch of topics ahead of time and schedule them to post periodically throughout your time off.  Other bloggers have had great luck with guest posts during these lapses.  I personally just bring my laptop with me and bang them out in the hotel room either that morning or the night before.  Hell at one point I even made a morning blog post while sitting in one of the terminals at Chicago O’Hare.  Whatever you choose to do, it is important that you at least think about what you will do when you can’t post for some reason.  The one thing I have learned above all else is that your readers crave consistency.

So You Want to Stream

Why I Stream?

This morning I found myself sitting here at the computer struggling to come up with a topic that I felt was worth writing about.  For the last several days I have been kicking around the notion of trying to do a very basic streaming guide, but really like everything I do… I don’t actually feel like I know what I am doing.  When I decided to start streaming on a whim a few months back, I had to pretty much figure everything out from scratch.  Thanks to lots of Google searches I managed to cobble together just enough information to do a passable job.  I am far from a streaming celebrity, and to be truthful no one actually watches my stream all that often.  I am happy to have a single other person in twitch chat with me.

So you might ask me then, why do I even bother streaming?  Honestly I am not really sure but it just seems fun to me.  There is something neat about showing the world what you are doing, and in some aspect that’s why we do any of this.  At least at a base level we blog, podcast, YouTube and stream all to share our lives with the world.  When I decided to start streaming I set up a structure on our guild voice server.  I created a channel called “Bel is Streaming”, and the basic idea was that if I was streaming I would join the channel and folks could pop in and chat with me… thereby making the entire feed seem more interesting.  This has worked pretty well, and on many evenings most of the people in channel are not even playing what I happen to be playing.

As a side note… I would not have had the courage to start the Aggrochat Podcast were it not for these streams.  For years I have said that we should be recording our mumble conversations… because some of the topics we end up delving into are really awesome.  It was while listening to one of these game streams one day at while working that I realized our nightly conversations sounded quite a bit like an impromptu podcast.  A few weeks later I was pulling together some of the regular members of these nightly discussions and AggroChat was born.  So if nothing else my piddling around with game streaming has had a mostly positive effect.   As to why I do it..  I am still trying to figure that one out.

Getting Started

The first thing you need to start streaming, is an account on a streaming provider.  The defacto industry leader right now is Twitch.tv which is the gaming offshoot of Justin.tv.  This is what I use personally but I have been hearing some really good things about Hitbox.tv for those who are wanting to use something different.  For the purpose of this guide we are going to primarily talk about what I use which is Twitch.  When you initially sign up, your username will be the default channel name for your stream.  However you can go into settings and change the Display name property to switch this up.  Basically I would suggest that you pick something simple and relatable to your blog or other social media efforts.  I am a simple monkey, so I try and pick /Belghast on all of the things unless it is already taken.

Moving forward what you really want from the twitch website can be found on the Dashboard.  You want to copy to a notepad document (or anywhere else you will remember it) the long string found on the Stream Key tab of the dashboard.  You will end up using this from that point on in any third party software to let you stream to your channel.  Another setting you might want to fiddle with while you are in the Twitch interface can be found on the Channel Settings page.  I highly suggest you toggle on the “Automatically archive my broadcasts” checkbox, because this opens up a whole world of options.  Firstly there will be folks that hit your page because it is “YOUR” page… not necessarily because you happen to be streaming something at the time.    Checking this box means that anything you broadcast will show up under the “Past Broadcasts” tab inside of your twitch profile.

The other cool thing this does for you, is that you can export directly from Twitch to YouTube.  Ultimately this is how I record anything that ends up on my YouTube channel.  I like keeping things simple, and being able to export directly without having to fiddling with the YouTube interface is a huge win to me.  The twitch interface is actually rather robust and it allows you to export individual segments of your video to YouTube, as well as having a default functionality to split videos into fifteen minute chunks.  By default YouTube will only allow you to upload videos that long until you have gone through the process of verifying your account…  which is an entirely different topic for a different day.  I am by no means “good at YouTube” but I do a passing job at having a channel.

You Need Some Software

Now in order to get your video stream to twitch.tv you are going to need some software.  I know absolutely nothing about Mac gaming…  so if you fall into this category, I am sorry this guide is going to leave you in the cold.  I am a PC gamer and as such only really experienced with PC configurations.  The Twitch broadcast page has a bunch of different options, and I am assuming that one or more of them can run on a Mac.  The “Gold Standard” in streaming seems to be Xsplit, as that is really what all the professional streamers seem to use.  However, to get the most out of it… it is a yearly subscription service.  I am totally fine with using the “Bronze Standard” in streaming software… because I am cheap.  That honor seems to fall to Open Broadcast Software or OBS, a very solid open source alternative to Xsplit.  Basically you have to ask yourself what your level of comfort is with software in general.  If you truly dislike fiddling with things until they work… save yourself some headache and pay for Xsplit.  If you are like me and are willing to scour internet forums for information to save some money… then OBS should work well for you.

image This is what my OBS configuration looks like.  The software is arranged into a few basic concepts.  Scenes can be thought of as a “screen setup” that you plan on broadcasting to the world.  I have one set up for each game that I happen to be playing, as well as a generic “Thanks”, “AFK” and “Pre-stream screen”.  You can swap back and forth between these rapidly from within the software, so it is completely to personal taste how many you configure.  You are going to need at least one scene to be able to broadcast anything to the world.  The next concept is Sources… these are essentially things you want to place on screen at the same time.  One of these will be your video game feed, then a lot of streamers include a feed from their web cam and various image overlays.  You can use ANY transparent image, and overlay it on your video.

I personally keep things pretty simple, my personal preference is that I have an image in the top left corner identifying what game I happen to be streaming at a glance.  I find this important since sometimes it takes a time or two for twitch to actually update your stream title and game you are playing.  Additionally I have a “Tales of the Aggronaut” image that floats on screen… that I use for a pretty simple purpose, to cover up the majority of my chat box.  Not that I do anything super secretive in game, but I would prefer to guard anyone’s account information that might happen to be sending me a message for guild business.  Not that I have a lot of followers, but I don’t want to just assume that everyone I deal with in the games wants their information broadcast on the internet.  The floating image does a nice job of obfuscating the text but at the same time advertising my blog and providing my twitter information.

For the purpose of this setup, the most important thing that you add is a “Game Capture” source.  This will ask you to name the source, which can be anything that makes sense to you.  Next you will get a drop down of every active application on your system.  In this case you would choose whatever game you are wanting to stream.  On this same screen there is a “stretch image to screen” check box and generally I would suggest doing this.  This is going to be important for most Indie games especially since the resolution may not be the actual resolution you happen to be streaming.  I personally stream everything 1080p, but a lot of streamers drop down to 720p for the purpose of compatibility.  I can’t stand to play games at that low of resolution, so I have not really figured out a viable way to play at 1080p but have something scale me down to 720p without the stream looking like crap.

image At this point you want to preview your new Scene by hitting the “Preview Stream” button.  You should in theory see your game image coming through in the little window inside of OBS.  If you see nothing but a black screen… now begins the “fiddly portion”.  OBS generally seems to work best when playing a game in “Fullscreen Windowed” mode.  There are a few exceptions to this rule, but in theory you will want to configure your game to run in that mode if at all possible.  Black screen means you are not getting a feed of video from the game.  There are also options for “Window Capture” and “Monitor Capture”, but those are more thermonuclear.  If you choose to broadcast your Monitor, it will literally broadcast everything that comes across your monitor even stuff you don’t necessarily want to broadcast.  I suggest only ever doing that if you happen to have a multiple monitor setup.  Window Capture in general seems a little flaky, but right now I am having to use that for ArcheAge to get it to work well.

The Super Technical Bits

Now comes the hardest part of the setup, and the one I cannot give you any “firm” answers for.  There are a few settings that you need to configure based on your internet connection.  If you are not comfortable with thinking of things in terms of kilobits per second aka kbps…  then you are likely going to find this bit frustrating.  There are essentially two schools of thought here, the super technical is to go through a process of figuring out exactly what your connection will support and assigning the values accordingly.  The second school of thought is to try 2000, and if that doesn’t work smoothly… try 1500.  I am going to actually cover the technical aspects, because the trial and error method is exactly that.

image Inside of OBS settings, there is the encoding tab, and more than anything else this tab dictates how smooth your stream looks.  For the most part everyone should be using the x264 encoder.  I did some tests with the Nvidia NVENC encoder, and the end results looked horrible.  It greatly reduced the system requirements of doing the encoding, the end result was a choppy and blocky mess.  Use CBR should also be checked as well as the CBR padding.  This means it is going to try its best to keep your stream at a constant bit rate, which should go a lot way to preventing stutters and stops.  The Audio settings should for the most part work for everyone as well.  The piece that is going to be unique however will be Max Bitrate and Buffer Size.  I personally like having a buffer a little bit larger than my Max Bitrate for extra padding and hopefully extra stability, however for most individuals they set these values to the exact same thing.

The above image is a test of my internet connection this morning while working on this post.  I will be using it as an example, but ultimately you are going to want to test your own line… because quite frankly my connection is way faster than most internet connections.  There are many testing providers out there but for this example I am using Speedtest.net just hit “Begin Test” and you should see your own results shortly.  This tester ends up giving us our speed in mbps, which is fine but for the purpose of the tool that estimates what these settings should be in OBS, we are going to want kbps.  This is simply a case of taking your mbps value, in this case 22.82 and multiplying it by 1024 the number of kb in a mb.  The end result in my case is 23367.68 kbps and then I take that number and dump it into the OBS estimator.  In my case it suggests that I set my max bitrate to 3500 and my buffer size to 3500 as well.  I however did not want my stream ever to take up my entire pipe so I dialed those back to the settings I actually use.

Hooking it to Twitch

image Now that we have our encoding configured, it is time to actually hook the thing to Twitch.tv and see what happens.  Remember that stream key I asked you to copy out to a notepad document?  This is the point where you actually need it.  This is what twitch uses instead of a username/password authentication scheme to allow someone to broadcast to your channel.  Guard this with your life… or at least take some precautions because with this key anyone can use your channel.  You want to set the mode to “Live Stream” and since we are going to be piping our output to Twitch, you want to select the “Twitch / Justin.tv” option from the streaming service drop down box.  The next setting is pretty important, for Server you want to select the closest location geographically.  I live in the Tulsa, OK area so for me I choose “US Central: Dallas, TX” and it works pretty smoothly.  Finally you want to paste your stream key in the “Play Path/Stream Key (if any):” box.  If you did not copy this down earlier you can retrieve it from the “Stream Key” tab of your Dashboard.

Test That Puppy Out

image

If you did all of the things above, now you should be able to click the “Start Streaming” button and be off and running.  Some things to make sure before you do this.  Firstly make sure the game you are wanting to stream is running in the background and preferably running “Fullscreen Windowed” mode or whatever the equivalent is in that game.  Secondly make sure you have the correct scene selected inside of OBS.  Lastly I highly suggest you decouple your twitch account from your twitter account for the purpose of testing.  Otherwise every time you press that start stream button you are going to be spamming the hell out of your twitter friends.  In theory you should be able to open your twitch stream and see the output of your game on the screen.  But before you do it… there is one last thing.

image Make sure your stream is actually showing the correct game being played and the title you wish it to show.  I have had more issue with this one than anything else, and now I load my profile three times in a row just to make sure the edit took.  Initially it seems like the first edit NEVER takes.  When when I reload my stream I have to log back in and change it again, and sometimes it doesn’t actually take until I do it a third time.  I wish there was a way to set this inside of OBS, but as far as I know you have to keep logging into the Twitch website to set it up.  The only reason why this is important is because it will broadcast to people browsing the twitch interface that you are playing a specific game, and in theory you want it to be the right one.  At this point… press the start button, cross your fingers and hopefully you are live to the world.  If not… it is time to hit Google and figure out why exactly a given game isn’t working with this setup.  I am by no means an expert, but hopefully this guide will be useful to at least some of you.

Shores of Oblivion

Mornings Are Hard

This one in particular is extremely difficult for some reason.  I guess it could be the fact that I fell asleep at the keyboard last night, and as a result ended up getting to the actual bed far later than I had intended to.  Now as I attempt to jump start my brain with caffeine I am realizing how frustrating the act of a morning can be.  More than anything I am finding myself extremely easily distracted.  Of late several of us have been slowly migrating to Anook.com as a social site.  Primarily this is for the fact that it is ideally suited for a multi-guild meet-up site like the Alliance of Awesome.  At this point I am wondering if I could simply transplant my folks from the House Stalwart forums to the site as well making the whole experience more fluid.

For those who don’t remember… or were not reading my blog at the time, the Alliance of Awesome is a weird experiment that we have been running.  With the launch of Landmark alpha, several of us realized just how many different overlapping groups we were a part of.  So we proposed a grand alliance, and since then many of us have been laboring to make those efforts successful.  Right now the AofA as we call it, is a combination of Combat Wombat, Dark Religion, Mercy Gaming, Multiplaying and House Stalwart.  Elder Scrolls Online was the first game we really went into as a large amalgam guild and so far it seems to have worked extremely well.  I have been shocked at just how little drama has been involved, but I guess that is to be expected when most of us are “thirty somethings”.

Shores of Oblivion

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Last night was an odd sequence of events.  Firstly I was supposed to be doing a pen and paper thing with several of my friends.  However I did not want to get into anything too deep because I knew I would need to go do things with my wife when she got home.  As a result I ended up piddling around in Elder Scrolls Online while waiting in a holding pattern.  As the evening went on, the time of her arriving home kept slipping backwards, so in grand total I ended up playing and streaming my gameplay for a few hours.  The mission of last night as always was to finish up Bangkorai.  I have finally reached a point where I think there are just two objective areas left in the map.  However completely by accident I seem to have moved past the zone and into Coldharbor by following the storyline.


Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
At some point soon.. or at least as soon as I can find a wayshrine in Coldharbor I will be venturing back to Bangkorai to finish up the last few things on my map.  I find it almost impossible in this game to “skip” content.  It drives me absolutely insane that there is still a black skull on my Alik’r map from a world boss that was bugged out.  I feel like I have to explore every corner of the map before I finally and reluctantly move on to the next area.  At this point I am just a stones throw away from 47, so I figure that I will ding 50 well before I even come close to finishing Coldharbor.  That zone looks equally huge as compared to Bangkorai.  When I posted the above picture on Anook, someone commented about the Mudcrab.  That is “Butter” my faithful companion that has been with me the entire journey.  I am not sure why I bonded with the brown mudcrab pet over the Monkey, Bantam Guar or Red Mudcrab… but I did and he has been at my side throughout all of this.

Crush the Resistance

swtor 2014-05-05 21-28-00-26 I love the Elder Scrolls Online with every fiber of my being, but the game requires a lot of focus.  This past weekend and the last few days I have struggled a bit in trying to maintain that focus.  Wandering around the world requires you to be constantly aware of your surroundings, because an afk in the wrong area can end up with a hefty repair bill.  As such I need a game that doesn’t quite matter so much.  For a long while this has been landmark, but I have reached a point of builder burnout there for the moment.  On a whim this weekend I decided to fire back up SWTOR and I have been piddling around on my Caithar Sith Juggernaut.  I never really got to see the Sith side of things, so overall it is pretty enjoyable.  I opted to go Light Side Sith, which seems to be far more my style anyways.  I am this island of honor and nobility in a seething mass of evil.

swtor 2014-05-06 23-32-23-94 To be truthful… this specifically is the reason why I logged in over the weekend.  On “May the Fourth” they gave everyone that happened to log in an adorable astromech droid pet.  I could not pass this up, because of my friends… I am the only one who ever seems to be nostalgic enough to re-up a game subscription and revisit games the guild has moved on past.  So while it started out as “get this thing while it was available”, I am actually finding myself enjoying the game again.  It is no real competition for ESO, but it scratches the itch that most everyone seems to be satiating with Wildstar beta weekends.  Additionally… after all this time I finally have a machine that will run SWTOR on maximum everything.  This client is so poorly optimized that even on my laptop with dual video cards… it runs like complete shit.  No clue how long I will piddle around with SWTOR, but I might even stream some of my adventures.

From the Desk of Doctor Hannah

Another good friend of mine decided to enter the Newbie Blogger Initiative fray.  Dallian, otherwise known as Doctor Hannah from twitter… has had a blog for ages, but for the most part it had lived in a dormant state.  I think both the blog and the twitter account started as a joke reference to the now infamous Tabletop episode where Felicia Day creates this massive backstory of Doctor Hannah while playing Last Night on Earth.  So while the blog started off as a joke, at some point during its life it morphed into being Dallian’s personal space.  With the NBI he is taking the step of rededicating himself to blogging more regularly, and about his gaming side as well.  In this post on the forums he mentions wanting to do at least a post a week, but so far he has made like four posts this month.  I will do whatever I can to help support this effort, but in the meantime you should totally pop over to his blog and check it out.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #SWTOR #DoctorHannah #NBI2014